Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Grateful Cubans. Again.

Our friend Henry Gomez over at Babalu recently reported on a “debate” between Carlos Alberto Montaner, the Cuban-born journalist and author, and Ignacio Ramonet, the well-known Castro apologist.

The debate was published in the January-February edition of the magazine Foreign Policy under the general theme, "Was Fidel good for Cuba?"

Well, the feedback from readers is now in – and the responses make for intriguing reading.

Perhaps the pick of the crop comes from Wayne Smith, a one-time State Department official who was head of the US interest section in Havana in the late 1970s and who now makes a living as an academic, commenting largely on Cuban affairs.

“During the years that Cuba benefited from its markedly favourable trade relationship with the Soviet Union, it developed the most egalitarian society in the world,” Mr Smith argues.

“Its citizens couldn’t speak their minds, perhaps, but they were guaranteed food, housing, free healthcare, and education.”

Egalitarian? Guaranteed food? Housing? Must have been a very different Cuba to the place where I grew up because in that Cuba, there was never, ever any guarantee of food or housing. The only guarantee you got was a guaranteed rationing book - la libreta.

But even if we assume Mr Smith is right, why not have guaranteed food, housing, healthcare and education AND the freedom to speak your mind without fearing ending up in prison? Or worse.

Why should Cubans be the only people in the world expected to be grateful for food, housing, education and healthcare but to not be allowed to speak their mind?


Would Americans such as Mr Smith agree to such a deal? I wonder.

1 Comments:

Blogger Manuel A. Tellechea said...

During the years that Cuba benefited from its markedly favorable trade relationship with the Soviet Union, it developed the most egalitarian society in the world. Its citizens couldn’t speak their minds, perhaps, but they were guaranteed food, housing, free healthcare, and education. — Wayne Smith

A few points:

Cuba's "favorable trade relationship with the Soviet Union" entailed Castro "trading" 16-year old boys to the Soviet Union for use as cannon fodder and receiving in exchange canned carrots and pickled beets.

Castroite society was never been "egalitarian." The elite in Cuba "own" and exploit all the land and all the natural resources. They are assuredly a small elite, which makes matters worse, not better. Never in history has such a small clique of plutocrats enjoyed such isolated prosperity in a country of such generalized misery. If this is Wayne Smith's conception of an "egalitarian" society, then slavery is his utopia.

"[Cuba's] citizens couldn't speak their minds, perhaps." Which is it now? Could they speak their minds or couldn't they speak their minds? As José Martí said, "Freedom is the right of every man to think and speak without hypocrisy." No Cuban has enjoyed that right in Cuba since 1959 except Fidel Castro himself. Is that "perhaps" there to account for that lone exception?

"[Cubans] were guaranteed food, housing, free healthcare, and education." Even if this were true, there is more to life than going to school or getting sick. But, of course, it isn't true, and Smith, who lived in both pre-Castro and Castroite Cuba, knows that it is not true.

I really wonder what it is that Castro has on Wayne Smith. Whatever it is, it must be big enough to turn him into the most insincere self-caricature of a Castro apologist that ever lived. And that is saying a great deal.

12:19 am  

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